No Love for Putin: Russia Losing Favor With Americans
For much of the last two decades, a majority of Americans have considered Russia an ally, or at least a “friendly nation,” according to Gallup. In the past few years, however, polls have shown that more Americans view Russia and its President unfavorably than at any other point in the last two decades. The most recent examination of public opinion, conducted in February of 2014, showed a continuation of the worsening American opinion on both Putin and Russia, a trend begun in 2012 and continued in 2013.
The poll conducted in 2013 closely followed the deal that Russia helped form with Syria for the removal of its chemical weapons — at a time when the United States was on the edge of conflict over their presence. At that time, 50 percent considered Russia either unfriendly to America or an enemy, with only 44 percent considering Russia an ally or friendly nation. In 2006, positive sentiment concerning Russia reached a high of 73 percent, a 29 point drop over the course of seven years.
In May of 2002, 41 percent held a favorable opinion of Putin, with 18 percent stating their position as unfavorable. By 2013, the statistics had nearly reversed, with 19 percent giving their view as favorable, and 54 percent as unfavorable. Now, in 2014, America polled with 60 percent viewing Russia unfavorably, and 34 percent favorably. Putin’s favorable opinions have remained stable at 19 percent, but unfavorable sentiment has increased to 63 percent of those polled.
In light of the Winter Olympics and Russia’s position in opposition to the United States over Ukraine’s future, it’s understandable that American’s opinions aren’t warming as 2014 continues. The Olympics have highlighted some of the more serious free speech curtailment, terrorism threats, and general corruption concerns. On top of that, social media has undoubtedly contributed to public sentiment as complaints poured in about the conditions in Sochi, with poor hotel conditions and stray dog executions. Putin also revealed his claws in a New York Times op-ed in September, which almost certainly didn’t help his image with Americans, criticizing the United State’s foreign policy and its “exceptionalism” after a statement from Obama that claimed the United States was in a special position to help with international conflict, and that it’s “what makes us exceptional.”
“Over the past year, Russia has pursued a much more aggressive stance on the world stage than at any time in the new millennium. In his first term in office, Putin was viewed more favorably than unfavorably by the American public, but Americans now see him in a clearly unfavorable light,” read Gallup’s statement on the polls results.
President Obama himself hinted at some frustration with Russia in a recent double-press conference with French President Francois Hollande, stating that while most on the UN Security Council have agreed on a resolution for humanitarian aid in Syria, “Russia is a holdout.” He added that, with Syrians starving, “it is not just the Syrians that are responsible; the Russians, as well, if they are blocking this kind of resolution. Nobody is going to deny that there’s enormous frustration here.”